WEDNESDAY, 3 MAY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull’s $22 billion cut to schools; Turnbull’s $50 billion corporate tax giveaway; Budget; infrastructure spending in Victoria
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I am a parent and I want the best education for my kids and I want the best education for everybody's kids. I don't think there is a single parent in Australia who doesn't want Australian schools to be the best in the world and Labor's always been consistent about giving our kids the best chance in education. We want the best for our kids - nothing less will do.
We've been consistent in that we constantly support needs-based funding for all of our kids. Doesn't matter what postcode they live in, the wealth of their parents, their personal circumstances, we want the best for every child in Australia.
And now Mr Turnbull wants you to believe that the Liberals have had a change of heart, that all of a sudden they're not going to commit cuts to education. But yesterday, Mr Turnbull revealed $22 billion worth of cuts to school funding over the next 10 years. That means cuts to funding for schools in the country and the city, big schools and little schools, schools from battling postcodes. These are $22 billion worth of cuts to schools. You simply can't trust the Liberals when it comes to properly funding the schools and the needs of our kids in the future.
You can't trust the Liberals and, indeed, the Catholic education sector has been in touch with us, and they are very concerned that the Catholic education system is being specifically targeted by Malcolm Turnbull's cuts to school funding. Catholic educators have advised me that they think it is a great likelihood that the fees parents pay to go to Catholic primary schools, the parish schools, will have to increase.
You can't cut your way in education and hope for Australia to have a bright future. It has been a dark week for education in this country. Earlier this week, Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals have said that they're going to increase the fees to go to university. They are going to cut the funding for universities. And now, yesterday, they have said they are going to cut funding for schools.
Labor will fight the cuts to funding for education. The best thing any generation can do is to make sure that our kids get the best quality education in the future and that's what Labor stands for. All kids, everywhere.
I'd now like to invite the local member and Shadow Minister for Education to talk further about Labor and education.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Well, thanks very much Bill for visiting the electorate and visiting this beautiful little schools, St James in Glebe, and for your consistent support for a great education system in this country.
We know for sure that you can't trust the Liberals when it comes to educating Australians. In this week, as Bill said, we've got billions of dollars of cuts to universities. And just yesterday, an announcement of more than $22 billion cut from Australian schools over the next decade. This comes on top of the cuts that will happen this year for preschools and the cuts that are slated for TAFE, half a billion dollars a year lost from TAFE. So from preschool to primary school to high school, to TAFE, to university, in every area of our schools system, the Liberals are proposing billions of dollars of cuts.
When it comes to the schools announcement that was made yesterday, I am blown away that the Prime Minister of this country can get up and say that a $22 billion cut to schools across the nation is fair. Something we should be grateful for, it is a great thing. It is extraordinary that this Government is taking Mr David Gonski out and using his trusted brand to sell this inferior product. This education funding cut announcement is the new coke of education announcements. This is taking a trusted brand and using that to cover up an inferior product, a product that no Australian parent will buy. This is a $22 billion cut to schools that translates, on average, to a cut of $2.4 million to every school across Australia over the decade.
Now of course, that means some larger schools, some poorer schools are going to see much larger cuts than that $2.4 million average over the decade. This cut is the equivalent of sacking 22,000 teachers over the decade. We know what makes a difference in the classroom is having the best possible teacher giving one on one attention to children. And these changes announced yesterday will make that impossible.
Now, the Government said that it is not just about money, they have been saying for years, since the 2014 Budget cuts, that $30 billion of cuts doesn't matter because it is not about money, it is about school reform. Well yesterday, they said it is about money but we're not going to cut $30 billion, we are going to cut $22 billion over the decade. They have said too that David Gonski will advise about how to best spend that extra money - or that reduced amount of money in classrooms. They have said that David Gonski will give advice about how to best spend that reduced amount of funding in our classrooms. Well we know how best to spend it. Labor had a comprehensive school reform agenda that this Government has trashed.
So we're not even at square one. We're not even at where Labor left the education reform agenda when we left government.
Thanks. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Government this morning says that the Catholic schools sector is not being left behind, there's going to be more than $1 billion that will be pumped through over the next decade and students, on average, who attend Catholic schools will be about $3,500 better off. What is your response to that?
SHORTEN: Complete snake oil from Malcolm Turnbull. He is the snake oil salesman of all time, trying to get people to believe that somehow cutting $22 billion from schools over the next 10 years is good for the educational health of our children.
How arrogant and out of touch is Malcolm Turnbull? You've got to love this bloke. He is telling the Catholics that they don't know their own education system. When it comes to running the Catholic education system, do I trust Malcolm Turnbull to do it, or do I leave it to the Catholic Education Commission? It is not me saying that fees will go up. It is not me saying that the Catholic education system is being targeted. It is the people who run the Catholic education system.
Why is it that Malcolm Turnbull is trying to get people to believe that somehow they are going to be better off. If you look at what the Catholic Education Commission said in their public releases, the ACT, Ross Fox, Stephen Elder in Melbourne, and plenty of other administrators, they've have said that fees will go up for the primary school parents in the Catholic system. If it comes down to believing what is best in education, I am backing the Catholic education system to know their system better than Malcolm Turnbull trying to do a patch-up job and snake oil from the salesman.
JOURNALIST: Federal funding for the Catholic schools is still set to grow by 3.7 per cent. Do you think that should be higher?.
SHORTEN: Well what I'm saying is that the Catholic education system said that one, they weren't consulted - they've been ambushed. Two, the promises that have previously been made aren't being kept. And three, that fees are going to go up for parents who send their kids to these Catholic parish schools. They are the experts.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, obviously there's a commitment, a promise that the $22 billion will be found under your government?
SHORTEN: Well let's be clear, I appreciate that you think we might get elected at the next election, we won't jump that hurdle yet. But going to the substance of what you say, look at Labor's record. Look at the policies we took to the last election.
We have been consistent on the need for needs-based funding in our schools. We will absolutely make sure that our figures stack up before the next election. But let's be straight about what has happened yesterday and today. Malcolm Turnbull has tried to get up and give himself a gold medal because he says he is not cutting $30 billion from schools, he is only $22 billion.
For me as a parent, I want the best for all of the kids going to school in Australia. I want to make sure they get funding according to their needs so they get the best chance in life.
There is no way that the sub-optimal $22 billion cut is the best for Australian school kids. We are going to fight this all the way.
JOURNALIST: Won't some Catholic schools, such as in Tasmania, actually be better off?
SHORTEN: Well again, I go off what the Catholic education system is saying. Just because Malcolm Turnbull gets up and holds a press conference before he jets off to see President Trump and leaves an educational mess of significant proportion in Australia, the Catholic education system are very unhappy. Again, It is a vast and successful education system. Plenty of Australian kids go to these schools. Parents make a choice to educate their kids in the Catholic system.
It is not unreasonable that the parents who send their kids to parish schools should get some return on the taxes they pay Canberra. Malcolm Turnbull is playing with fire here and I certainly think he needs to listen very carefully to the concerns being expressed by the Catholic education system.
But I must say, it is not just the Catholic education system. If Mr Turnbull wants to cut the funding of 24 elite schools and freeze the funding of 300 other elite schools, we are up for that. Fair enough. If we proposed it, the Liberals would have gone off their trolley. But the point is, if he is proposing that, we're happy to work with him on that.
But what we don't see is that if you're looking, if you’re cutting at the very top end, that you should going after the bottom end as well. The fact of the matter is that Labor has a better plan for funding our schools. As Tanya has said, the difference in the position is something like, under the Liberals there will be 22,000 fewer teachers funded over the next 10 years, two and a half million dollars, approximately, for an average school across the next 10 years.
The most important thing a government can do is invest in the education of our young. This week Malcolm Turnbull has shown complete contempt for the education of people in this country. University fees, up. Funding for universities, down. Funding for schools, down. And all of this so he can pay for a $50 billion corporate tax giveaway in the Budget. His priorities are the big end of town. He is the most out of touch Prime Minister on record.
PLIBERSEK: I just wanted to add a little something here. Of course, the Catholic systemic system has been very critical of these changes. So has Rob Stokes, the Liberal Education Minister here in New South Wales. So has James Merlino, the Education Minister in Victoria. So has Kate Jones in Queensland. You go around the states and territories and the education ministers, conservative or Labor, who are responsible for funding government schools, are saying this is unacceptable.
The teachers unions, who know what is going on in their schools better than anyone else, they are saying it is unacceptable. New South Wales P&C today, they're saying it is unacceptable.
This is a proposal to cut $22 billion from schools that is pretty much friendless at the moment.
JOURNALIST: But it may have the Greens' support?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I mean, truly. This is extraordinary, isn't it? I never thought I would see the day when faced with $22 billion of cuts to Australian schools, the Greens would say, we will let you know, we will have to think about it, we're not really sure. I mean, truly, this is $22 billion of cuts from our nation's children, from their education, and the Greens are going, we’ll let you know.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how are you going to find that money when the tax cuts are partially through?
SHORTEN: Thanks very much for that question. Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison are making all of these cuts so they can pay for a $50 billion corporate tax cut. What Labor will do is not go ahead with the corporate tax cut of $50 billion to Australia's largest companies, to multinationals and to Australian banks. So that is how we help pay for our promises.
But it doesn't just stop there. We are not convinced that when you still have a Budget deficit which has, in fact, tripled since the Government introduced their Budget deficit levy on the top income earners, the top three per cent, we do not see the case has been made to get rid of the Budget deficit levy, and that's worth billions of dollars.
And we certainly think that if Mr Turnbull wanted to help fix the problem of housing affordability for first home buyers, he could also do a massive favour to the Budget and save tens of billions of dollars by scrapping unsustainable negative gearing tax concessions and capital gains tax concessions.
So Labor has got the ability to help do Budget repair that is fair. We have got the ability to help make sure that we have got a Medicare system which is based upon your Medicare card and not your credit card. We have got the capacity to say that you should have needs-based education, quality education for future generations of Australians, because we don't prioritise the top end of town.
If Malcolm Turnbull wants to run a proper Budget, stop pandering to millionaires with tax cuts, stop pandering to the big banks with tax cuts, stop pandering to property investors by having negative gearing tax concessions. You can do Budget repair, the difference is we will do Budget repair that is fair.
JOURNALIST: Just to be clear on that, business tax cuts. Will you overturn what has gone through already?
SHORTEN: We will have more to say about their business tax. We want to see their Budget numbers. But I tell you what, I couldn't be any clearer, the case for giving a billion dollar company a corporate tax cut and reducing their tax from 30 per cent to 25 cent, that case has not been made out.
Just how much profit does Malcolm Turnbull want to help the big banks make? ANZ yesterday has announced massive increases, doubling in their 6-month profit numbers. Wait until their friend Malcolm Turnbull gets to work. He will improve their bottom line and profitability.
He wants to help multinationals ship more profit overseas. I want to educate Aussie kids in Aussie schools.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, as a Victorian, it appears that the State Government there is a bit upset, that it doesn't believe it's getting its fair share of infrastructure funding.
SHORTEN: Well it's not just the State Government, the fact is that Victorians have got a point. Now it shouldn't be an either-or. Badgerys Creek Airport? Good idea, Labor's been supportive, although we do say to Malcolm Turnbull, don't set the airport up it to fail by not having public transport in it from the outset.
But the Victorians make a legitimate point. Malcolm Turnbull would need a street directory to find his way out of inner parts of the eastern suburbs of Sydney. He doesn't know where Victoria is. I mean he's good for getting on a tram and taking a selfie, he won't fund public transport in Melbourne.
The Victorian complaint is essentially this – they are about 25 per cent of Australia in population, they get less than eight cents in the dollar in infrastructure funding. Why does Malcolm Turnbull hate Victorians so much?
JOURNALIST: Labor has also been criticised for snubbing infrastructure in Victoria.
SHORTEN: That is just rubbish. I took that up with the paper yesterday. The fact of the matter is that we want to see the Melbourne metro funded, we want to see proper transport.
I am a Victorian, I live in Victoria. I get what we need to help decongest city traffic in Victoria, in Melbourne. You have got to get the public transport right. Malcolm Turnbull loves to be photographed as a tourist on public transport, we just wish he would fund public transport in Melbourne.
JOURNALIST: What about the criticism of the east west link and that the State Government abandoned that plan and it cost a billion dollars in compensation to not proceed with that?
SHORTEN: We all know that the Labor Government there went to the polls with their policy and they got elected, and then much to Malcolm Turnbull's annoyance, the state Labor Government kept their promise. He should try that some time. But the real substance of the issue is, that money is not going to be used on the road project, so what the Liberals have done, what Malcolm Turnbull has done, he's punished every Victorian, because he has taken that funding away from Victoria, he hasn't put it into another project in Victoria.
Again, it is a bit like schools, it's a bit like universities. Malcolm Turnbull thinks he knows more than the people who run universities, he thinks he knows more than the people who run schools, and he thinks he knows more than Victorians, and that It is why it’s got be his way or nothing.
Perhaps a final question.
JOURNALIST: Do you think these school cuts will actually make Catholic schools less affordable and force the closure of some Catholic schools?
SHORTEN: Well, the Catholic educational experts, who have been in touch with us, have made it perfectly clear that the prospect of parents who send their kids to Catholic parish schools paying increased school fees as a result of Malcolm Turnbull is very real.
Under Malcolm Turnbull, if you send your kids to a Catholic primary school, chances are your fees will go up.
Under Malcolm Turnbull, if you send your kids to a government school, you are not going to get the same sort of funding that you would under Labor.
What Malcolm Turnbull has got to understand is that education is the key to a successful future. Every country in the world is doubling down their investment in our TAFE, in our child care, in our universities - all around the world - and in our schools.
Malcolm Turnbull is flying off to America to see Donald Trump, leaving an educational mess of some giant proportion, and the problem is, it'll be the kids who miss out and that is not good enough.